Sunday, 21 September 2014

it happened on the way to forum: syllabus

I sincerely hope I do not offend the historians and presenters from whom I have taken the torch in a glancing way by relating what I have heard in a poor and humble fashion but I am unapologetically eager to share whatever has piqued my curiosity to learn more and do hope that it is advancingly contagious for at least one person, like learning about the state of Roman public education. Of course, it was not universal basic education as we understand it but rather the stiflingly standardised curriculum that pervaded the Empire, echoed under the covered porches from Rome to Britannia, as tours in the provinces were always accompanied ones, and probably managed to instill a marked aversion to learning rather than producing a productive and literate populace.

Pedagogy was a mind-numbing affair of rote- memor- isation and recall, which systematically and unvaryingly divorced numbers, letters and even the limited canon of belle-lettres, the Iliad, the Odyssey, from their meaning—children instructed as copyists and sophists for the court. Even though the overwhelming majority could not afford such a luxury and the home-schooling paterfamilias mimicked the same uninspired method, the government deemed that—in the main—only imported Greek slaves, who interestingly made up the bulk of the educator-corps, could be entrusted as studious bureaucrats, with only a sliver of the citizenry in the Senate and the extended imperial family otherwise fit for governance. Aside from the mimicry of writing and reading only for the sake of grammar and sophistry, what was left out of standard education seems a gleaming omission—with no philosophy, arts, science, history or physical fitness (that was reserved to the ranks of soldiering) to speak of. Left with this model that was no better than what was available to their social betters, and with most being born into the caste of either farmer or fighter but endowed with the safety-net of a public dole of grain and wine, ensuring only a modicum of hardship and envy, the superstitions of that old-time religion endured for many.
 As the Roman pantheon became deluded with empty votive-offerings to a growing cult of Emperors and dependents and attendants, some began to turn to emergent prophets and charlatans for comfort and fulfillment, overseeing the rise of the membership of other groups, not necessarily aligned with Roman civic interests. The Roman educational system and it's inability to create the polity that it demanded probably affected on balance the departure of the old panoply and adoption of new religion, but I think that that was not the only factor for splinter factions. What do you think? Given how the same methods have been handed down through the eons and that there is still not much to capture the imagination of pupils, already recognising their caste, should not such inquiring and dissatisfaction be expected?